Digital, but not so democratic

Submitted by AWL on 30 November, 2016 - 1:34 Author: Simon Nelson

Momentum MxV is an “innovative new digital democracy platform.” So said an email on 24
November, signed just “Momentum”, to Momentum members.

MxV claims to be a “space to submit proposals for Momentum’s conference, discuss the proposals and decide which ones you support”. About 125 proposals had been submitted as of 28 November, attracting between 176 and two “support” clicks each. Without the knowledge of the National Committee, due to meet on Saturday 3rd, it appears that those around the national office of Momentum who are pushing the model of “clicktivism” have tried to create a “fait accompli”.

Online communication has a role to play, but to bypass local groups and their elected national committee in favour of whoever can stay online the longest submitting proposals or clicking “like” is no democracy. Some proposals submitted were removed from the website with no explanation and no recourse other then emails and social media to question what had gone on. A later statement on the website, cryptically signed “Momentum Digital”, then said; “These proposals were hidden because they did not fit into any of the conference’s category areas, for example because they are about public policy issues rather than Momentum, or because they are meta-discussion about the MxV platform itself...

“However Momentum members have made it clear that they do not want to see proposals removed for being ‘off-topic’, and would prefer a looser approach where the incipient community here on MxV can self-regulate, and work collectively towards developing fuller proposal documents for the conference.”

It still remains unclear who will decide the moderation of the proposals and how they will be formed into motions for the conference. The National Committee should insist on proper oversight of MxV and a full explanation of how it was launched without the engagement of members.

Having a forum to see all the motions put before conference, to comment on them, and to discuss ideas is great, if it goes alongside physical meetings that allow Momentum members to have proper discussions - and such basic things as publishing the minutes of meetings online, notifying agendas well in advance, and not waiting seven months between National Committee meetings. Momentum could also have a telephone number for people to call to contact the office rather than a series of email addresses with little explanation as to what each one is for.

The elections for liberation places onto the National Committee and for regional delegate places for those not covered by groups has been haphazard, and a lesson in how not to have a democratic election. Some members, in fact some candidates, did not get their e-ballots. Members who didn’t checked their email within a 72 hour period missed the opportunity to stand. At least one person ended up running in the wrong region!

Momentum’s National Committee will meet after an enforced seven-month hiatus on 3 December. Motions are going to the meeting from Momentum Youth & Students, defending free movement, and from the North West, on exclusions and suspensions from the Labour Party.

The North East has submitted a motion that highlights the lack of democracy and shambolic roll-out of the MxV platform and handling of OMOV elections for some places on the National Committee. The London Region should have its motion calling for the National Committee to re-elect the Steering Committee at this meeting heard early in the agenda.

The largest number of proposals are on decision making structures and the running of Momentum’s conference, due in February. Our view remains that decisions should be taken by a delegate-based conference. That will allow proper debate and discussion and empower delegates to go back and build activist groups that carry out the policies decided.

A series of online OMOV ballots with limited debate is not a real alternative. The conference is still mooted for February, but no date has yet been set.

Some in Momentum are worried that the fractious nature of debate about OMOV vs delegate representation may cause Momentum to split, and sections of the leadership will walk away from the existing groups, taking the database, affiliated unions, staff and volunteers with them. This would be very damaging and any attempt made to divide Momentum or exclude a part of it should be resisted. There remains a great deal of potential in Momentum, and this National Committee is a chance to start realising it.

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